How to be a man: Paul Galvin's rules for life
As he launches his latest fashion collection for Dunnes Stores, footballer, designer and Kerry native Paul Galvin gives us his rules for life, for being a man, and for style.
Gratitude V Positivity
Positivity is a buzzword these days, but it's not the key to happiness for me. The more I give thanks for what I have, the luckier I feel, the more positive I feel. Sometimes I hear people bang on about positivity for the sake of it, and it feels hollow. Gratitude is positivity rooted in reality.
Speaking My Mind
I've stopped speaking my mind. It's a little frustrating at times, but it's for the best. I can be blunt. Nowadays, if I do have something to say, I try to make it constructive.
I read recently about a wild elephant that was rescued from the sea 10 miles from the Sri Lankan coast and towed to safety by the Sri Lankan Navy. I love these stories, because they raise so many questions. I can't help wondering how an elephant survived in the ocean for so long in rip currents.
I can't believe a Navy vessel dragged the same wild elephant 10 miles back to shore by rope. Like, how do you tie a rope around a wild, drowning elephant in the middle of the Indian Ocean? Imagine trying to wrap a rope around a wild elephant's leg as it treads water to stay afloat? How do you untie a wild elephant when you eventually get it ashore? How is a wild elephant different to a regular elephant? Did it attend a wild beach party, snort drugs through it's trunk, go skinny-dipping and get swept out to sea? Sri Lanka has a Navy? It's remarkable, and reinforces to me that everything is possible.
Penny Lane and the bog
When I was around 10 years old, I fell into a bog hole near my house. I remember it vividly. My friend Patrick helped me out, and as he laughed I remember my jeans sticking to me and being pissed off that the Velcro straps on my New Balance trainers wouldn't stick anymore. Though we later moved over the road, I've always felt a strong attachment to Penny Lane, the bog road I grew up on. I feel like I literally came out of the bog. My Spring '18 story is called Bogman, and in it there's a pair of bogwash denim jeans inspired by that memory of falling into the bog hole. Memories and vision are first cousins. One is definitely related to the other. For better or worse.
John B Keane said being from Kerry was an awesome responsibility, and I've always felt that in a positive way. When I played for Kerry, I was at war for the county, particularly against teams from Ulster. Ulster men are the toughest men you will meet and I respect them for it, but we have John B, and that wit is what being a Kerryman is all about. Being John B must have been an awesome responsibility, too. I love the fact that he's from over the road in Listowel.
Those people I admire
I'm drawn to irreverent, independent, somewhat wild people. Roy Keane, Liam Gallagher, Jay-Z, Fred Perry, Luke Kelly, Paidi O Se. Part cult, part genius, part perfect, part flawed. I find people like this refreshing and interesting. I used to sit silently in Paidi's company and listen and laugh.
Ogie Moran told me a story recently about Paidi being delayed for a function in the old Burlington because he was introduced to The Edge in O'Brien's on Leeson Street as he was leaving. When the call came from the hotel for Paidí to hurry up, he replied, "I'm on my way, I'm just chatting to The Wedge". I laughed so hard at that, people stared.
I'd include him in the above bracket. He's the most potent sportsman to ever come out of Ireland. He's an athlete, a brand, a businessman, a comedian, an actor, an MC, an entertainer, and a cultural phenomenon. If you can't respect the guy, there's something wrong.
I live on five hours' sleep. Sometimes I go to bed and I lie there waiting for the morning to come. I love early mornings. The minute I wake, I'm up. Life throws new opportunities my way every day, which I'm very grateful for. If I'm in a foreign city, I'm especially excited for morning time. I ran from Bowery to Brooklyn over Brooklyn Bridge at 7.30am a few weeks ago, and it was the most invigorating, visually inspiring way to wake up. Though from rural Kerry bogland, I'm an urbanite now. I love city heights and cityscapes.
I find talking about football futile. Football was all about feelings for me. I loved the chaos of it all.
Ego is everywhere today. I feel it is misunderstood at times. As a footballer, I always felt it was important the opposition felt mine, but it was equally important my teammates never felt it. It has its place. Instead of quashing yours like gurus say you should, keep it healthy, mind it, and use it when you need it. You will always need your ego.
I know this sounds juvenile, but I'm not a huge fan of talking. I like silence. I need it to think, to work, to write, to be creative, and I need it to tell people leave me alone.
Past, present, future
My wife tells me to be more present. It wasn't until I met her that I realised I'm rarely in the present moment. I'm either in the past or the future. I find thinking about the past or the future more interesting than being in the present. Unless Louise [Duffy, Paul's wife] is speaking to me. Then I love the present.
I live in a nice part of Dublin. Recently, I found a middle-aged man asleep at our gates in the middle of the day, as I was leaving. When I returned, the guards were moving him along. As I passed by, he was rubbing the sleep from his eyes, trying to find his bearings, and it floored me. I parked and ran up the street after him, and gave him the money I had in my pocket to find a bed and some food.
Every day I wonder about sales, who is buying into my ideas, my style, how much I can grow, how much I can make. It's important for me to realise how much I can give, too. Homelessness is a big issue in Dublin. Lack of compassion is bigger.
I've never understood 'fashion'. I have my own understanding of style and clothing. Having style is like having thoughts, and clothing is like the words, the language or the expression of that style.
There are some words that a man should avoid using. 'Fashion', 'fabulous', and 'accessorise' are a few. If you asked an Irishman what he uses to accessorise, he'd probably tell you 'A mountain bike'.
I've had people laugh in my face on the streets for what I wore. This does something to you on a fundamental level. I was mentally tough enough to know that changing because people laughed would be a massive loss for me, so I kept going.
I'm also human enough to know that being laughed at can knock you. You're left at a crossroads, and you face a fundamental question: Do I keep going or do I turn back? I was never turning back. I kept going and I knocked some people over on the way - literally.
After my stag, one of my now brothers-in-law remarked on what great guys my friends were. That gave me a lot of satisfaction. One of my friends, Keith, told me last year that I hadn't changed a bit since college. I replied
that of course I hadn't, why would I? But, still, I was glad to hear him say it, and proud of the fact. You have to be consistent with friends.
On the other hand, shortly after our first All Ireland win with Kerry in 2004, a distant acquaintance who barely knew me, told me I had changed a lot. He was just being a prick, so I said, 'Of course I've changed. I won an All Ireland and an All Star and I'm going to win a few more'. I'm not usually like that as a person, but I just wanted to mess with his head. Never show ego to your friends, spare it for ignorant strangers.
I recently got a tattoo that says, 'My brother and I against the stranger'. It's an abbreviation of an Arab Bedouin nomad saying about loyalty and brotherhood, no matter what. I like to keep my brother close because I only have one, and brothers tend to fall out, which is sad to see. I see my teammates as brothers, too. I'm doing a collection about the Bedouins and brotherhood soon
As a footballer, I really bought into body language. Once the jersey went on my back, the game was on, and I wanted to drive opponents off the field before the game even started. Body language counts for more than verbals to me. I have a face that can say a lot without speaking.
How to be a man
There's no one way to be man. Sometimes to be a man is to fight - physically, verbally, with body language. More times, to be a man is to walk away, to be silent, to laugh.
When I retired from football a few years ago to be a man, I took up a book offer; negotiated all the contractual and legal stuff; wrote it; edited it; submitted it; put some of the money into registering trademark names for sportswear and footwear; put more into fighting a global sportswear company on a copyright-infringement case; won that; put more into travelling the world making samples for my first clothing collection; then I walked into Dunnes Stores's head office with a copy of the book for [CEO] Margaret Heffernan, who then invited me in to show the samples I had made.
From there, I agreed a contract to start a clothing label. We're now five seasons collaborating, and I can see the next five seasons in my mind's eye. None of it would be possible without Margaret, the Dunnes team and the book. The point is, I never really wanted to write the book in the first place, because I didn't want to give too much of myself away, but I knew I had to to make my future. That was then.
Nowadays, being a man is about being the best I can be at what I do, changing the landscape for Irish men with Dunnes, and making my wife happy and proud.
It's called hair care for a reason
I'm working on a mens' athleisure-inspired hair and grooming range at the moment. Barber culture started to bubble five or six years ago, and I've been involved in the business since with Sam's Barbers. Clothes, hair, appearance and style are all intrinsically linked to masculinity. If you take care of your hair, your clothes and your appearance, then your woman, your partner, your employer or your family will feel you can take care of them, too. Irish men weren't ready for this five years ago. We are now.
How to be confident
I'm far from the most confident person in the world, but I have a simple rule: if in doubt, take your time, weigh things up and back yourself. The worst that will happen is you will fail, and that's much better than not trying for lack of confidence.
I'm not one for heroes or icons, really. David Lynch looks cool. Gianni Agnelli looked cool. Alasdhair Willis is someone I reference and follow quite closely. I admire Fred Perry. His story is more important than his clothing to me. Not only did he win eight Grand Slams and three consecutive Wimbledons, he also left the UK for the States, and became a professional because he was routinely ignored by the class-conscious Lawn Tennis Club of GB due to his working-class background.
He foresaw the professional era in tennis. He later served in the US Air Force in World War II. Nothing held him back, and he was light years ahead of everyone else in his vision to start a personal sportswear brand in the 1930s. New balls, please.
I have never really had a mentor in business, though I could use one at times. Because what I do is new, I don't know of anyone here who has done it that I can turn to. My friend Jimmy Deenihan always supported me in my change of career, though. He was a person who really believed in me and encouraged me to follow through. To Jimmy, I was already a success in "design" - as he calls it - just for trying, which I found inspiring. Then again, he was a teacher who changed path, too, so he understood better than most.
He always supported ideas, the arts and creative people politically, which is forgotten too easily because the creative set are seen to be disposable - but politics, business and sport are all about ideas and creative thinking.
[Irish Independent Fashion Editor] Bairbre Power is another person who helped me along. She believed I had some talent too, and pushed me to start a label. It was Bairbre who encouraged me to contact Dunnes with my samples. There are people who helped me on my way in sport, for sure. I feel like I got a university education in football from Jack O'Connor.
Most interesting person
The most interesting person I knew was my late uncle John Moriarty. He was totally unique, because he never pandered to anyone. If he didn't feel like speaking, he didn't bother with small talk, but when he did speak, it was usually comic and razor-sharp. If he tired of your company, he'd let you know in his own way. I pulled in at his gate as I was passing one day and we spent 15 minutes talking, until he got restless. His excuse to
get rid of me stayed with me. 'I'll let you go. I've an egg boiling.' I drove off, laughing, thinking, 'He'll do well to swallow that hard-boiled egg'. He was a good egg.
I feel very blessed with my family. My parents, my brother and sisters, my extended family, and my in-laws. All good people and good fun. I think we underestimate our parents' ability to problem-solve at times. We look elsewhere when they have the answers. My in-laws are from Mayo, and I've grown to love the people and the place. They taught me how to hug and I'm not a huggy person.
Your mental health is your own. We're told it helps
to talk. The cynic in me questions people's motives in some cases. The only conversation I concern myself with is the one I have with myself. Keep that healthy, and your mental health will blossom. Unless I'm asked to help someone else, I mind my business and let others mind theirs.
When I was young, my father told me to always be my own man and to stand on my own two feet. I was a grown man before I realised I had lived his advice. Being your own man is just about following your beliefs and listening to your inner voice.
I'm 37, and I love where I'm at in life. Physically, I feel 27. Mentally, I wouldn't want to feel 27 - I was immature and lacked awareness. I've a better handle on myself now. My beard is greying, and I like it. I like who I am.
Interest beats knowledge.
To find your calling in life, you need silence and alone-time. Listening to the conversation within is the best guide. I kept finding myself thinking about how I could tell stories, apply language, reference literature, architecture, sport and reflect culture through clothing, in a way that wasn't being done, from what I could see. It was basically applying teaching and education to menswear design, and it was interest more than knowledge that drove me.
That distinction is important. I've never disguised interest for knowledge like many do. I know what I know, and I learn what I don't know from the team at Dunnes - from management to design to buying to marketing and merchandising.
People told me I was mad to leave teaching, but I can teach young people, especially young men, way more now than when I was teaching.
I have friends who are great teachers. After nearly 10 years, I lost interest, and I was afraid of being average at my job for the rest of my life. So I left. As soon as you lose interest in something, it's best to move on, regardless of knowledge.
Vision is what you see when you close your eyes. In my mind's eye I see Vanguard, Push, Born Mad, Mister, Shelby, Boxer, Bogman, Bedouin, Raglan, Dwyer. This takes me up to 2020, and I know exactly how these collections will look - from the colour stories to the shapes and proportions, to the prints I'll use, to the footwear, to the storytelling aspect and what I want to say about the national anthem, oppression, rebellion, Samuel Beckett, literature, bogs, architecture, Tom De Paor's N3, Bedouin nomads, Luke Kelly and Micko Dwyer.
That's why I don't like to talk about 'fashion'. It's about cultural storytelling to me, and having a vision of how clothing can be part of a greater story.
In my mind's eye, I also see different ways Gaelic football could be played. For all that the GAA saw me as a deviant for my career choice, Gaelic football needs designers now. System designers, set-play designers, game-plan designers, call it what you want - this is the future of coaching.
My mother always said, 'Without God on your side, you have nothing', and I always believed that, so I pray regularly. I stopped going to Mass a few years ago because I didn't feel it was relevant to my life any longer, but I still go to church. There's a difference between Mass and church. You can only go to Mass when Mass is on, but you can go to church any time.
It's like the difference between training and practice in sport. You can only train when the manager calls a time for training on a given evening, but you can go to the field to practice anytime.
In Kerry, the church and the football field are places of worship. You can visit any time to practice, and it's a powerful place to be.
Photography by Lee Malone
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